According to eternal inflation theory, new universes bubble into existence all the time, within a space called the “multiverse”.
Hiranya Peiris, a cosmologist at University College London, and her colleagues have now worked out that when bubble universes are created adjacent to our own, they may leave a characteristic pattern in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation revealed by the Planck telescope.
In the picture of eternal inflation, our observable universe resides inside a single bubble nucleated from an inflating false vacuum. Many of the theories giving rise to eternal inflation predict that we have causal access to collisions with other bubble universes, providing an opportunity to confront these theories with observation. We present the results from the first observational search for the effects of bubble collisions, using cosmic microwave background data from the WMAP satellite. Our search targets a generic set of properties associated with a bubble collision spacetime, which we describe in detail. We use a modular algorithm that is designed to avoid a posteriori selection effects, automatically picking out the most promising signals, performing a search for causal boundaries, and conducting a full Bayesian parameter estimation and model selection analysis. We outline each component of this algorithm, describing its response to simulated CMB skies with and without bubble collisions. Comparing the results for simulated bubble collisions to the results from an analysis of the WMAP 7-year data, we rule out bubble collisions over a range of parameter space. Our model selection results based on WMAP 7-year data do not warrant augmenting LCDM with bubble collisions. Data from the Planck satellite can be used to more definitively test the bubble collision hypothesis.
Full text at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1012.3667.pdf